MADISON — Coal mining jobs are being lost, coal mining operations are shutting down and nobody has been hit harder than the people living in the coalfields of southern West Virginia, said West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
Morrisey told members of the Madison Rotary Club on Thursday that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit granted a motion that blocks the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing a new rule that unlawfully expands the federal government’s regulatory reach over small streams, land and farms.
“This decision is a critical victory in our fight against this onerous federal overreach,” Morrisey said. “We have said from the beginning that this new rule does not pass legal muster, and had it been allowed to remain in effect, homeowners, farmers and a host of other entities across our state would have found themselves subject to a costly regime of new, complicated federal regulations. The Sixth Circuit’s decision saves these individuals and businesses from this hefty burden.”
In granting the stay, the court described the rule as “facially suspect,” according to Morrisey.
“This solidly reaffirms our belief that we have a strong case on the merits and that the courts will ultimately strike down this burdensome regulation,” he said. “We look forward to continuing to challenge this rule’s legality in court and are confident we will prevail.”
The rule, known generally as the “Waters of the United States” rule, extends the EPA and Corps of Engineers’ regulatory jurisdiction to an untold number of small bodies of water, including roadside ditches and short-lived streams or any other area where the agencies believe water may flow once every 100 years, Morrisey explained.
“It was published in the Federal Register June 29, and the agencies began enforcing the rule Aug. 28,” he said.
Morrisey said his office has been a national leader in challenging the “Waters of the United States” rule.
“These efforts have included drafting rulemaking comments opposing the rule, taking a leadership role in litigating against the rule, and seeking the stay from the Sixth Circuit,” he said.
Morrisey says 31 states and state agencies have challenged the legality of the rule as violating the Clean Water Act, the Administrative Procedure Act and the U.S. Constitution.
“It also usurps the States’ primary responsibility for the management, protection and care of intrastate waters and lands,” he said. “That coalition now includes West Virginia, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming and the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the New Mexico Environmental Engineer, and the New Mexico State Engineer. This gives us some leverage.”
Morrisey said he wanted to give hope to those in Boone, Logan, Mingo, Wyoming, McDowell, Raleigh and other coalfield counties.
“This is a priority for my office,”Morrisey said. “I want to ensure West Virginia has a voice and is heard. We want to ensure all regulations are consistant with the rule of law and the EPA has the most inconsistant regulations and rules. We will continue to challenge President Obama’s power plan in court and stop the EPA from changing from a regulations agency to an energy planning agency.”
Morrisey says his office remains very busy representing state agencies, running an effective consumer protection division and is now forming a substance abuse task force.
“Our office is going steps further than just litigation,” he said. “We are doing education programs, partnerships with law enforcement and town hall meetings, just to name a few. We want to work with federal, state and local agencies and groups to come up with creative solutions to many of the problems we face.”
Morrisey also warned Logan County residents of a telephone scam involving many Verizon and AT&T customers in the county.
“Our Consumer Protection Division received 70 complaints an hour relating to the scam,” he said. “We want to thank the good people of Logan County for bringing this scam to our attention.”
Verizon Wireless issued the following statement about the calls that customers have been receiving in Logan County.
“Verizon Wireless has a long history of working closely with law enforcement and the judicial system to identify and successfully shut down scammers, spammers and their ilk and bring them to justice. Customers should contact Verizon Wireless customer service if they receive any suspicious or unexpected text messages or calls. They can either call 800-922-0204, go to a store or visit www.verizonwireless.com.”
Morrisey is warning West Virginia consumers to be on high alert for calls claiming to be from credit card services demanding immediate payment for an outstanding debt.
He said his office is aware of a scam where callers target consumers about an urgent credit card debt and insist the consumer provide payment information over the phone to pay the debt owed.
“This scam has been around for some time but it is taking an aggressive upswing,” said Morrisey. “The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division reported today that they have received around 70 complaint calls per hour. Consumers have claimed to be receiving up to 80 calls a day related to this scam.
“The initial call comes from an automated prompt alerting consumers of a potential issue from someone purporting to be from Cardholder Services and instructs the consumer to press “9” to be transferred to a representative,” Morrisey explained. “After the call is transferred, the scammer uses high pressure tactics and aggressive language to intimidate consumers into providing payment information.
“These scammers can be very persuasive during these calls,” he said. “Our office urges consumers to always remain calm and proceed with extreme caution when giving out financial or personal information over the phone.”
Morrisey encourages all consumers to follow these tips when receiving unsolicited phone calls in which the caller requests personal information:
• If you do not recognize a phone number, do not answer the phone. Scammers tag answered phone numbers as “active” and are likely to try these numbers repeatedly.
• Be very cautious when providing private personal information over the phone, on the Internet or to someone coming to your home unsolicited.
• If a caller says you must pay a late debt right away, take down the necessary information and then independently verify whether you owe the money. Call your card company’s customer service line to verify your account balance.
• Do not panic. Take time to think through whether the amount they say you owe is really owed.
• Be wary if someone uses poor grammar or bullying tactics in order to get you to pay a debt, these are often red flags for fraudulent calls.
If you believe you have been the victim of this phone scam, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808 or visit the Office online at www.ago.wv.gov.
Fred Pace is an editor for Civitas Media. He can be reached at 304-369-1165, ext. 1661, in Madison; at 304-752-6950, ext. 1729 in Logan; by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or @fcpace62 on Twitter.